Midseason Awards and Outlook

Offensive MVP: Hendon Hooker

Hooker is the straw that stirs the drink. A dual-threat quarterback brings a new dynamic to this offense. Having a quarterback that can run allows the coaching staff to mix up their play calls. Having a running game has also opened up space in the passing game. Hooker’s presence on the field has given this offense more options and more space to work.

Honorable mention: Dalton Keene, Deshawn McClease

Defensive MVP: Chamarri Conner

The light has come on for Conner. He is all over the field. He leads the defense with 4 sacks, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 22 solo tackles. It’s great to have a versatile player like him at the whip position. Having him there gives Bud Foster more options on defense.

Honorable mention: Rayshard Ashby, Caleb Farley

Special Teams MVP: Oscar Bradburn

This one isn’t even close. Bradburn would be the team MVP if I had to pick one. He’s fourth in the nation in yards per punt with a 48.0 yard average. He booms the ball every time he puts his foot on the ball. He’s a field position weapon that the team needs this year. He may end up as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He’s almost a lock for first team All-ACC.

Honorable mention: Brian Johnson, John Parker Romo

2nd half Outlook:

The Hokies didn’t have a great start to the season. They lost two games most expected them to win, and won a game that few expected them to win. I expected the Hokies to be 5-1 at this point in the season, but 4-2 isn’t terrible. The problem is that the Hokies are 90th in total offense and 59th in total defense. That’s not going to get it done in conference play.

The offense has the potential to look better in the 2nd half due to the emergence of Hendon Hooker. It operates more smoothly with him behind center. The coaches can also open up the playbook a bit more with his threat to run. We’ve already seen the last two weeks that the running game has emerged. This has made the Hokies offense more balanced and less one-dimensional.

The defense appears to have the pieces to be effective but the output is less than the sum of their parts. There is individual talent on this defense but they haven’t played well as a unit thus far. There are still far too many mental mistakes. Tackling has improved since last season, which is good to see. But there are still too many breakdowns from a defense that returned a lot of starters from last year.

The challenge for this team will be to get to seven wins to become bowl eligible. That will mean that they need to split wins and losses the rest of the way to get there. It’s possible. All the conference games look winnable. That Notre Dame game looks tough so I’m not expecting a win there. The remaining games represent opportunities to pick up wins. To make a bowl, this team will need to make strides on offense and defense. If we see the same team we saw in the first half, I’m afraid to say this team will not be bowling this season.

2019 Virginia Tech Season Preview

The Hokies are coming off their first losing season since 1992. Last season was a bad combinations of injuries, attrition and youth. The good news is that a lot of young players got the chance to play which should make the 2019, 2020 and 2021 squads better because of it.

Why will 2019 be better? Because the Hokies return 7 starters on offense and 9 starters on defense. This will not be the same extremely young and inexperienced team from 2018. They also have an very manageable schedule. It is one of the easier schedules in the Power 5. Both of these factors should lead to a significant improvement in their win-loss record.

Offense

Ryan Willis returns after a strong 2018 campaign. The Hokies struggles were not because of the offense last season. Ryan Willis threw for 24 touchdown passes in 10 games and he should be able to improve upon those numbers in 2019. He’s a good fit for this offense and should get some help from a strong core of receivers.

This is one of the better receiving corps in the ACC. The Hokies return Tre Turner, Damon Hazelton, Dalton Keene and Hezekiah Grimsley. They also bring on new receiving threats James Mitchell and Tayvion Robinson. This is a deep and talented group that should put up some good numbers in this offense.

The Hokies are still trying to find a go-to running back. It looks like 2019 will be another year where it will be running back by committee. The Hokies will get a lot of carries out of DeShawn McClease and Jalen Holston and will try to mix in some carries for speedy newcomer Keshawn King. There has been a lot of buzz this preseason around King’s speed and elusiveness.

The offensive line is another deep and talented group but they might need a couple of games to come together. They should be able to open up some holes for the running game. This is going to be a special group over the course of the next couple of seasons but   need a little more experience before they can reach their full potential.

Even with a lot of youth and first-time starters this was a top 50 offense last season. This season with more depth and returning 7 starters, this offense should produce even better results. Justin Fuente is hoping to get a full season from his returning starting quarterback. That is something that has eluded him in his first three years in Blacksburg.

Defense

The defense SHOULD be better than last year. At least you would hope so. This is a  defense that struggled with a lot youth and attrition last season. They return 9 starters and were able to bring in some depth players at positions of need. This defense was BAD at times last season. This season they should see a significant improvement.

The defensive line is still an area of concern. The defensive ends should be fine as they return Emmanuel Belmar and Tyjuan Garbutt with some youth behind them. The bigger area of concern is at defensive tackle. The Hokies are hoping to find success with returning starter Jerod Hewitt and JUCO newcomer Deshawn Crawford. Behind those starters, the coaches are hoping to find serviceable depth with a group of true freshman. The play of the defensive line will go a long way toward determining how successful this defense can be.

The linebacker group should be an area of strength for the Hokies. Dax Hollifield, Rayshard Ashby and Alan Tisdale should rotate in at the mike and backer positions. Bud Foster will have a couple options to work with in this group. They should play a bit faster this year after another year of experience in this defense.

The secondary has more options than they did last year. Reggie Floyd and Divine Deablo bring some experience at the safety positions. There is more depth and more options at the cornerback position. Caleb Farley should lock down one of those positions. Jermaine Waller is likely to start opposite Farley but Jovonn Quillen or Armani Chatman could also make a move for playing time. Jeremy Webb is another option as the year progresses and he recovers from two torn achilles tendons.

The defense will certainly be better than last year but don’t expect a vintage Bud Foster defense. The improvement in depth and experience will lead to better results but this is still a young group. If the Hokies hope to make it to Charlotte this season, this defense will have to produce a top 40 defensive ranking — which is possible, but not a certainty.

Special Teams

The Hokies need to find a reliable field goal kicker from beyond 40 yards. Brian Johnson will get another shot at it after going 12 for 18 last season. He was automatic inside of 40 years but struggled with longer kicks. Oscar Bradburn returns as a very reliable 2-year starter at punter. Hezekiah Grimsley and Tayvion Robinson will get the first opportunities at punt returner. The kick returners are anybody’s guess. There are a number of speedy options to choose from.

2019 Outlook

The Hokies need to get back to their winning ways. This team looks setup nicely for 2020 and 2021, but 2019 looks like a season where they are building toward better days ahead. That doesn’t mean another 6-6 season, but it probably means an 8-4 or 9-3 season. The offense is likely to be in the top 40. The hope is the defense can also produce a top 40 unit but it will need some young guys to step up, particularly on the defensive line.

Tough games (<40% chance to win)

Notre Dame and Miami. Both of these games present a major challenge. The Hokies will need to bring their A-game to have a shot at winning on the road against either of these two teams.

Toss-up games (50% chance to win)

Boston College, Pitt and Virginia. I see all three of these games as coin-flip games that could go either way. These games are the difference between 7-5 and 10-2. The Hokies need to take care of business against these three opponents.

Should win games (>70% to win)

Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Even with the Hokies struggles last year, this is still a strong program that recruits well and regularly puts a good product on the field. These are the types of games the Hokies should win as long as they don’t overlook their opponents. These games have sleepy, trap game written all over them.

Major upset games (>90% to win)

ODU, Furman and Rhode Island. Yes, the Hokies lost to ODU last year. It was a major upset. Major upsets happen sometimes. But they are extremely unlikely. It takes a pretty strange set of circumstances to occur. These are games the Hokies should win way more often than not.

Key games for the Hokies: at Boston College, Pitt, at Virginia
Upset Alert: Pitt

Game-by-Game Predictions

Game Prediction
at Boston College vt-logo
Old Dominion vt-logo
Furman vt-logo
Duke vt-logo
at Miami

miami-logo

Rhode Island vt-logo
North Carolina vt-logo
at Notre Dame nd-logo
Wake Forest vt-logo
at Georgia Tech vt-logo
Pittsburgh pitt-logo
at Virginia vt-logo

Final Regular Season Record: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)
Expected finish: 2nd in Coastal Division
Final Regular Season Ranking: 22nd
Predicted Bowl Game: Camping World Bowl in Orlando

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2018 Virginia Tech Season Preview

Talk about a bad offseason. Terrell Edmunds, Tremaine Edmunds and Tim Settle all declared early for the NFL draft. Adonis Alexander entered the NFL Supplemental Draft after being dismissed from the team. Mook Reynolds was dismissed. Galen Scott was forced to resign. Jeremy Webb tore his achilles tendon. The best news was Josh Jackson’s near miss with an academic issue. Wow. That’s a bad offseason.

But there is hope for 2018. There are a lot of talented young players who will get their opportunity to step up. The schedule isn’t that tough and the Hokies should be in position for another good year if they can get some young guys to step up – particularly on defense.

Offense

Josh Jackson is back 100% healthy after getting banged up in the 2nd half of last season. He’s a smart QB with a good arm and can run the ball when needed. He reminds me a lot of Bryan Randall. He’s never going to draw comparisons to Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson, but he has all the tools to get the job done. He’s good at taking care of the ball and no one knows the playbook like he does. This year he will have more help around him. He can be really good and put up big numbers with the right supporting cast around him.

Virginia Tech will get more production from the running back position. Gone is Travon McMillian but the Hokies have a couple of other guys who are good fits for the offense. I’m most excited about Deshawn McClease. McClease rushed for 265 yards in his last three games with over a 5 yard per carry average in each of those games. And…

That’s some pretty good company. Jalen Holston had his moments in 2017. Steven Peoples can always pick up the tough yards. And you have Coleman Fox who can add some energy and speed when he gets into a game. The guy to watch this season is Deshawn McClease and his progression in this offense.

The wide receivers are young but talented. Damon Hazelton, the sophomore transfer from Ball State, looks like a breakout candidate for the Hokies. Reports are he gave the scout team a lot of trouble last year when he was redshirting. Expect Sean Savoy to build on the big season he had last year. Also keep an eye on Phil Patterson who had the catch of the year in the Spring Game. He could also be a breakout candidate this year. But the guys I will be keeping my eye on are Hazelton and Savoy.

An underrated position group is the tight end group. Dalton Keene looks the part and you can expect to see him have a bigger role in the offense this season. True freshman James Mitchell is already getting rave reviews in practice. And Chris Cunningham will continue to be a dangerous red zone target. This year we will see more production out of this group in the passing game.

The offensive line looks good on paper. They lost Wyatt Teller who brought a lot of toughness to the group but this is a talented and experienced group. It’s also a group of guys playing in their positions of strength. It’s a good mix of experience and young talent for depth. That’s usually a good combination. This position group has 10 guys in the two-deep that are game ready. This should be a good group.

The offense should be better than last season. I think this side of the ball could see a bigger improvement than most are expecting. At Memphis, year 3 under Justin Fuente is when the offense really took off. A healthy Josh Jackson will make a big difference. Fuente has had two years to recruit his players into this offense. The product this year should resemble Fuente’s vision for his offense more than his first two seasons in Blacksburg. They’ll need it with so many young guys on the defense.

Defense

The defense is the area of concern for the Hokies this year. Youth everywhere. This is what you would have to call a rebuilding year. But the Hokies still have Bud Foster. Bud Foster can only cover for so many young players. The beginning of the year might be rough.

The starting defensive line looks really good but it is not a deep group. This is the one area of the defense where there is experience. But there is not much behind the starters. The young guys are going to have to step up to give the starters a breather. The depth is concerning but the Hokies have some young talent that should be able to step up to fill out the two-deep. The Hokies need to avoid injuries from the starters. The guy to watch on the line is Ricky Walker, he has All-ACC and All-American potential. Two breakout guys to keep an eye on are Houshun Gaines and Tyjuan Garbutt.

The linebacker group is young and inexperienced. The linebacker group will have three first year starters this season. But there is an injection of talent in this group. Expect the group to struggle early in the season but they should be pretty solid as the season goes on. I feel good about the talent level here but not the experience level. Names to keep an eye on here are Devon Hunter, Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield.

The secondary is also young and inexperienced. Are you sensing a trend here? I like the talent but there is just not much experience here. This secondary will take it’s lumps early in the season but will build confidence as the season goes on. Don’t be surprised to see a lot of mixing and matching with the group to find the four starters the coaches want to roll with. You can expect Reggie Floyd and Divine Deablo to start at the safety positions. The corners will be manned by whoever can win the position battles this August. The breakout candidates in the secondary are Bryce Watts, Caleb Farley and Jovonn Quillen.

The defense will take a step back to start the season. You can’t lose the amount of talent the Hokies lost and hope to improve. I do think this will be a good defense but it will take a couple of games before it gels. This won’t look like a Bud Foster defense in the first half of the year. Too many young players. Good news is that there is a lot of speed and talent, and you’ll see it come together nicely in October and November.

Special Teams

Aside from Oscar Bradburn expect a lot of new faces on special teams. Brian Johnson should take over field goal duties. The Hokies will need to find new kick and punt returners now that Greg Stroman is gone. Bryce Watts and CJ Carroll should get an opportunity on punt returns. Jovonn Quillen is a candidate to return kicks along with Caleb Farley and Cole Beck (if he doesn’t get redshirted).

2018 Outlook

The Hokies biggest obstacle to a division championship is Miami. The good news about this year is that the Hokies get Miami at home and a lot of national experts like the Hokies chances in that matchup.

The Hokies have some big match-ups this years. They open the season with Florida State in Tallahassee. They get Notre Dame at home in week 6. Then they get Miami at home on the second-to-last week of the regular season. Those three games will be important in determining the Hokies’ season.

Watch out for games at Duke, Georgia Tech at home, Boston College at home, and Pittsburgh on the road. Those are games where the Hokies could stumble if they are not careful. The Hokies need to avoid the upset bug in 2018.

Key games for the Hokies: at Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami
Upset Alert: at Duke

Date Opponent Prediction
Mon, Sep 3 @ Florida State* L
Sat, Sep 8 William and Mary W
Sat, Sep 15 East Carolina W
Sat, Sep 29 @ Old Dominion W
Sat, Sep 30 @ Duke L
Sat, Oct 6 Notre Dame* L
Sat, Oct 13 @ North Carolina W
Thu, Oct 25 Georgia Tech W
Sat, Nov 3 Boston College W
Sat, Nov 10 @ Pittsburgh W
Sat, Nov 17 Miami* L
Fri, Nov 23 Virginia W

Final Regular Season Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)
Expected finish: 2nd in Coastal Division
Final Regular Season Ranking: Unranked
Predicted Bowl Game: Music City Bowl in Nashville

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Old Dominion Preview and Prediction

The Hokies are 3-0 with a big win over a good WVU team and wins over two overmatched teams. The Hokies hope to finish a perfect non-conference schedule this week against Old Dominion.

S&P+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 25th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 67th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 13th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 47th

Old Dominion

Overall S&P+ ranking: 100th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 99th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 85th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 88th

Why should ODU be a concern for the Hokies? First off, always worry about an in-state team with something to prove. The Hokies are the class of the state of Virginia. The Monarchs would love nothing more than to knock them off their perch. Don’t overlook a motivated in-state team. The Hokies found that out the hard way a couple of years ago against JMU.

ODU has only been an FBS team for the last 4 years. Last year, they won 10 games in Conference USA and won the Bahamas Bowl. They were a legit G5 team. This season they’ve taken a step back. ODU got blown out against the only P5 team that they have played (UNC).

In this matchup, the Hokies are going to need to focus on keeping the ODU pass rushers off of Josh Jackson. ODU leads the nation in sacks. They should present a challenge for the offensive line. One which I expect they will win considering ODU only got one sack against UNC.

ODU is in a tough spot trying to pull an upset in Lane Stadium. They have significant injuries on offense and they are starting a 17-year-old true freshman quarterback. Not to mention they have also had trouble moving the ball on the ground this season. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success against the Hokies.

On paper, this matchup shouldn’t be close. The Hokies are statistically better almost across the board. In some cases, drastically better. ODU will be starting a young, true freshman quarterback in Lane Stadium against Bud Foster. Yikes! ODU is slightly better than ECU, so they will give the Hokies a little more resistance than the Pirates did but either way it won’t matter much. Hokies take care of business and move on to a big showdown against Clemson next week.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 52, Old Dominion 13

 

West Virginia Preview and Prediction

I don’t like West Virginia. They are my least favorite college football team. That feeling goes back to the games between the Hokies and WVU in the early 2000’s. I am not a fan of their program or their fans. But playing them is what makes college football great. Evenly matched teams. Passionate fan bases. And a rivalry that matters to both sides. It’s sad that this rivalry had to take a 12 year hiatus but a break was needed.

It’s strange to dive back into this rivalry. If you were a freshman in 2005, you’d be 30 now. Safe to say there are a lot of Hokies that don’t remember this rivalry – which might be a good thing. The football part of the rivalry made for some exciting games. The animosity in the stands was not healthy for either school. We’ll see where we’re at on Sunday. I hope both fan bases have had some time to reflect and gain some perspective in the last 12 years.

Projected S&P+ Rankings for 2017:

Virginia Tech: 25th
West Virginia: 69th

Will Grier has proven that he can be an effective Power 5 quarterback. He has a nice resume dating back to his time at Florida. The VT secondary is the strength of the defense. Which makes me think that WVU will focus on Grier’s running ability. I have seen countless games where a running quarterback gives a Bud Foster defense fits. I imagine WVU will lean on the ground game instead of throwing into the teeth of the Hokies’ defense.

The left side of the West Virginia offensive line does not bring back a lot of experience. They are going to struggle to keep Virginia Tech’s starting defensive line off of Will Grier. This is why I’d expect to see WVU to lean on the running game in this game. They would be smart to keep the ball on the ground.

I’m worried about the Hokies offense getting off to a slow start. I like the individual pieces on the offense but I’m worried about them getting into a groove in the first game of the season. It’s like the Tennessee game last year. The individual pieces on offense were there but they did not come together in time for the Battle at Bristol. I could see something similar happening in this game. The defense is going to have to carry the load in this one.

What’s giving me the most confidence in this matchup is the VT coaching staff vs the WVU coaching staff. I have a lot of confidence in our guys compared to theirs. It’s a mismatch and that mismatch will show itself on the field. Bud Foster has not forgotten about this rivalry. An angry Bud Foster is a great Bud Foster.

At first, I was thinking the Hokies would win this game by around 10 points. The new offensive pieces and the FedEx Field factor make me a little nervous. But I still think the Hokies are the better team. This game is like the last game preview I wrote for the Belk Bowl – it’ll be a close game but I like the Hokies to win it. This is a great week to go 1-0.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, West Virginia 24

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

You take conference road wins however you can get them. Even if they are ugly. Getting the win is all that matters. Hokies took care of business on the road at Duke last week. Each week the games get bigger.

Georgia Tech is next. This is a team that gives the Hokies fits every year. This year should be no different. This is an offense that stays in every game. They don’t often get blown out. They limit possessions on both sides of the ball. That means your offense has to be efficient.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 17th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 56th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 11th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 36th

Georgia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 62nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 44th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 81st
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 74th

How will Bud Foster’s reshuffled lineup perform against the Georgia Tech offense? If there was a game where you’d feel okay losing Greg Stroman and Terrell Edmunds, it’s this one. However, you’re asking your backups not to make many assignment errors. That can be a lot to ask sometimes. Either way, I think Bud Foster knows this offense well enough to make those adjustments. He will put his players in a position to succeed.

This is a game where the Hokies offense should be able to move the ball. First, the Hokies offense has been excellent at home. The Hokies have averaged 46.7 points per game against FBS opponents at Lane Stadium this year. The Georgia Tech defense has had trouble stopping opponents this year. They don’t give up the big play but you can dink and dunk them downfield all day long. Expect the Hokies to put up some points in this game.

You worry about the reshuffled lineup on defense. You never know how that’s going to go against a dangerous Georgia Tech offense. But if there is someone who knows how to scheme against that offense, it’s Bud Foster. Also, this offense has been lights out at home. They look like a completely different team in Lane Stadium. If the defense can hold up and not have too many assignment issues, I expect the Hokies will be fine. I never go into this game expecting a comfortable win. But if the Hokies play at home like they have all season, I’m feeling pretty good.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Georgia Tech 21

Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies were finally able to break the curse of Heinz Field. It took a gritty effort and for the first time in a long time, the offense had to pick up Bud Foster’s defense. That is not something that happened often in the Beamer era. In big games on the road, only one thing matters and that’s winning. The Hokies found a way to win at Heinz Field and now are in the driver’s seat for the Coastal division.

The word of the week is focus. Top 25 teams get upset every week by unranked opponents. There are no easy wins in the Power 5. Teams need to show up focused. It’s not easy to come off a big win on the road then come ready to play the next week. Earlier this season, the Hokies notched a huge win against UNC then put up a dud against Syracuse the next week. Let’s hope the Hokies learned from that experience.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 13th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 41st
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 8th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 19th

Duke

Overall S&P+ ranking: 72nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 88th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 44th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 108th

On paper, the Hokies have a significant advantage in this matchup. Duke is without their starting QB, Thomas Sirk, he was lost for the season in August. They are also without their top running back, Jela Duncan. This is a team that should struggle to move the ball against the Hokies’ defense. They also have a quarterback who has thrown nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns. This seems like an offense that Bud Foster’s group should be able to slow down.

Duke can give teams trouble when they are on defense. They are good at limiting teams thru the air but have been prone to give up the big play from time to time. The Hokies are going to have to try to stretch the Duke defense by going deep to one of their three deep threats. Like they did against Pitt. The Duke defense is also good at limiting teams in the red zone, which the Hokies struggled with last week. They will have to be better this week.

Duke is a team to worry about because David Cutcliffe teams do not beat themselves. Every FBS game that Duke has played this year was decided a margin of 14 points or less. Duke does not get blown out. They don’t commit many penalties and play solid defense. They are not the type of team you can expect to walk over.

If there are two areas the Hokies can look to turn the game, it’s turnovers and special teams. This may be a game where the Hokies can show off a little new-look Beamerball. Daniel Jones has thrown 9 interceptions this year. Duke is ranked 125th in the nation with 12 lost fumbles. And they have not been particularly strong on special teams (see S&P+ ranking above).  They particularly struggle on punt coverage and converting field goals. Keep an eye out for turnovers and special teams in this game.

This game will not be a cakewalk. Duke is a legit team and can absolutely upset the Hokies. The same way Syracuse did. If the Hokies show up focused like the did against Miami and Pitt, they should be fine and roll to a comfortable win. If they start slow or sleepwalk like they did against Syracuse, they could be in trouble. I do think there will be a bit of an emotional letdown after the Pitt game. I still think the Hokies win and pull away in the 4th quarter.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Duke 17

Syracuse Preview and Prediction

Hokies took care of business against UNC. Three straight blowouts can really inject a lot of life into a fan base. After the Tennessee game, fans were wondering if this team would make a bowl game. Now folks are talking New Year’s Six bowl. A lot can change in a couple of weeks.

On to Syracuse. Long-time Hokies fans still have nightmares about the Carrier Dome. That dome has seen a lot of weird games between the Hokies and the Orange. It also has not been particularly kind to the Hokies. But those games were a long time ago. Different coaching staffs and two different programs at this point in time. The players on these teams were young children the last time these teams played.

This Syracuse team reminds me a lot of the Tulsa team the Hokies played in the Independence Bowl. A great offensive passing attack with one really good play-making wide receiver (Amba Etta-Tawo). And not much of anything else. Didn’t that Tulsa team only lose to the Hokies by 3? They did. But Bud Foster’s D is playing much better this year than they were in the bowl game.

Virginia Tech

S&P+ Overall Ranking: 19th
S&P+ Offensive Ranking: 96th
S&P+ Defensive Ranking: 4th
S&P+ Special Teams Ranking: 22nd

Syracuse

S&P+ Overall Ranking: 68th
S&P+ Offensive Ranking: 43rd
S&P+ Defensive Ranking: 96th
S&P+ Special Teams Ranking: 71st

The Hokies have the clear advantage on defense. Even though Syracuse has an excellent passing attack, the Hokies should be able to slow it down. Syracuse also reminds me of ECU, who was able to have some success in the passing game. But the Hokies were still able to limit ECU below their season average. Syracuse does not take a lot of shots downfield. They are a dink and dunk West Coast offense but they still put up a lot of yards.

Key matchup to watch: Virginia Tech’s cornerbacks vs. Amba Etta-Tawo. Etta-Tawo is one of the best wide receivers in the ACC and one of the best the Hokies will see all season. He leads the ACC in receiving yards. It will be a tough task for the Hokies corners to cover him all day.

Syracuse has lost to every decent team they’ve played this year. Their only wins were against Colgate and UConn. All their losses have been blowouts. Syracuse excels in the passing game and at punt returns (#1 in the nation!) but does not do much of anything else well.

I expect the Hokies to have a bit of a letdown in this game. It’s just so hard to play so well for four consecutive games. Eventually you’re going to have one that’s not exactly a masterpiece. This is a classic trap game on the road sandwiched in between two games against ranked opponents. Even if the Hokies don’t play their best, I still think they can win comfortably. Syracuse is not a great team. In fact, they’re not very good overall. Imagine if this team was playing last year’s Tulsa team, they’d probably win… by a lot. The talent advantage is clearly on the Hokies’ side in this matchup.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Syracuse 17

2016 Virginia Tech Season Preview

It’s a new day. The Justin Fuente era. Virginia Tech found an elite offensive mind to pair with Bud Foster. On paper it looks like a match made in heaven but what will it look like when the pads go on?

The hire was well received by the college football world. Most said it was one off the best hires of the offseason, if not the best.

But what does Fuente inherit? Is the cupboard full? Half-full? Empty? Does he have what he needs to win in year 1? Let’s take a look EA Sports NCAA Football-style.

Coach:

justin-fuente

Offensive Coordinator:

brad-cornelsen

Defensive Coordinator:

bud-foster

Quarterback:

jerod-evans

Running Backs:

running-backs

Wide Receivers:

wide-receivers

Tight Ends:

tight-ends

Offensive Line:

offensive-line

Defensive Line:

defensive-line

Linebackers:

linebackers

Defensive Backs:

defensive-backs

Specialists:

specialists

Prediction:

prediction

Purdue Preview and Prediction

Purdue is the Wake Forest of the Big Ten. It’s true. They went 1-11 in 2013 and 3-9 in 2014. So why should we be worried? Because they need this win really badly. Darrell Hazell is trying to save his job and you know he’s going to pull out all stops to get a big win at home over a name team in Virginia Tech.

Why Purdue will win…

  1. A good running game against inconsistent linebacker play by the Hokies. Specifically, a running QB which seems to always give VT fits.
  2. Strong secondary play with two senior cornerbacks against Brenden Motley who will be making his first career road start.
  3. VT collectively not taking this game seriously and not being ready to play.

Why VT will win…

  1. Bud Foster can always scheme around a young, inexperienced MLB.
  2. Austin Appleby is the type of interception-prone QB that Bud Foster’s defenses feast on.
  3. VT will establish the outside run and will make life easy on Brenden Motley.

This is a really tough game to pick. I think you’ll see some jitters from the Hokies in their first road game of the season. We honestly don’t know who the real Hokies are after a really tough game against the unanimous #1 team in the country and an easy win over an FCS cupcake. I think Saturday is the Hokies first true test. We’ll learn a lot about this team this week. I’m going to go with the Hokies by a narrow margin. If the Hokies come ready to play, they can win by double digits but ultimately I think they make enough mistakes to keep this game close.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Purdue 17